Press becoming an endangered species

05 June 2020 | Opinion

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

With those powerful words, French philosopher Voltaire was making a point that we value freedom of speech, and the right of everyone to express their opinion, even if that opinion is one we do not like.

Another thinker, Baruch Spinoza, argued in the Tractatus-Politicus that the “most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right over his thoughts”.

Press freedom, which includes free speech, and democracy are inseparably intertwined. And both are under threat in Namibia at the moment. The events this week where state security agents pushed around journalists covering the opening of an isolation facility by President Hage Geingob shook the media industry.

Apart from being shoved around as if they were dangerous criminals, journalists were also told they “could have been shot” in the name of safety for the president. This is criminal, plain and simple.

While we agree that journalists are not exempted from observing state protocols, pushing them around when their only interest was to help spread government's message to the nation was totally uncalled for and tyrannical.

This is not an isolated incident. For too long now, there has been harassment of journalists in different ways by henchmen and lapdogs of state and political actors.

Unfortunately we seem to be moving into a very dangerous territory - a judgemental and restrictive territory.

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